Highly prized for its beauty, character, and poise, the Elegance coral (Catalaphyllia jardinei) is one of the most attractive coral species reared in the reefkeeping hobby. This majestic coral has long flowing tentacles, a calcified skeletal base, and comes in a variety of beautiful color morphs and patterns.
This renowned LPS coral was recommended as an ideal species for beginners a few decades ago due to its ease of care and hardiness but this changed greatly since the advent of a contagious disease that causes high mortality rates in specimens, more on this later.
Keep reading for more information on the amazing Elegance coral. I will be talking about the essentials and how you can take care of them in reef tanks.
Quick Notes about Elegance Corals
|Common Names||Elegant coral, Wonder coral, Ridge coral|
|Scientific Name||Catalaphyllia jardinei|
|Tank size (minimum)||15 gallons (~60 liters)|
|Water flow||Moderate to high|
|Optimal Temperature||23 – 28°C (~74°F – 83°F)|
|Optimal Salinity||SG = 1.023 – 1.025|
|Optimal PH||8.1 – 8.4|
|Optimal KH||8 – 12|
|Nitrate||Less than 20 ppm|
|Color Form||Fluorescent green typically with cream, brown, lime green, red,
blue, purple, pink, or orange-tipped tentacles.
Origin of Elegance Coral
As regards to the taxon, the Elegance coral can be traced to Catalaphyllia, and this is a monotypic genus of stony coral in the family Euphylliidae. Going further, this genus is closely related to Euphyllia species (Hammer coral, Frogspawn, Torch corals, etc.), and contains only a single species— Catalaphyllia jardinei, which is referred to as Elegance coral in the reef aquarium hobby.
It is worth mentioning that the first individual to assign a name to this coral was William Saville-Kent in the year 1893, and he called it Pectinia jardinei in his publication. Furthermore, it was referred to as Catalaphyllia plicata (Wells, 1971), and much later, it took on the name Catalaphyllia jardinei, of which the coral is popularly known presently.
The scientific classification of the Elegance coral can be summarized below:
Species: Catalaphyllia jardinei
Habitat of Elegance Coral
Elegance coral is naturally domiciled in diverse habitats; this beautiful coral can be found in reefs throughout the Pacific Ocean, though rare in the West Indo Pacific, its range also extends to Indonesia, Japan, Australia, Micronesia, Mozambique, and Vanuatu.
This coral occurs at depths down to 130 ft (40 m), and stationed at shallow and midwater parts of a reef, preferably in turbid waters.
They are mostly collected from deep flats with sandy bottoms, lagoons, seagrass beds, and near shore mudflats.
Description of Elegance Coral
The Elegance coral is a colonial coral that exists in different forms. It can either be free-living (rare) or attached. There is the presence of corallites that are fused in winding rows that are joined at the base of the colony.
Just like the Euphyllia, the Catalaphyllia colonies are flabello-meandroid (“wall” structure) but there is a clear distinction— the presence of straight-edged septa, and this forms V-shaped valleys that are not found in Euphyllia. The space between the valleys are quite even and they possess sharped edged walls.
In the free-living forms, colonies are smaller and they can be seen on soft substrates with a V-shaped skeletal base and may lack the prominent meandroid attributes existent in attached forms.
The polyps of Catalaphyllia jardinei have long flowing tubular tentacles with contrasting tips extending from large, fleshy striped oral discs.
Colors include fluorescent green typically with cream, brown, lime green, red (rare) with blue, purple, pink, or orange-tipped tentacles.
Unlike many other corals, that develop long sweeper tentacles to sting nearby corals, in the constant battle for real estate, the Elegance coral does not have ones.
In relation to the size of the Elegance coral, they can grow really big, up to 12 inches (30 cm) in length and 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter, while the length of the individual tentacles is about 4 inches (10 cm) when fully extended.
Unfortunately, Elegances are very slow-growing corals.
Note: The polyp itself can be 4 to 5 times larger than the skeleton base!
Behavior of Elegance Coral
This stony coral prefers to be mounted on soft substrates at bottom of the reef tank where it can easily bury into. It has lethal stinging tentacles that aid in capturing small prey by immobilizing them and also defending itself against predators.
Like anemones, Elegance corals also have sticky tips. Even though this ability is not very strong, it still helps them to catch and hold prey.
Without a doubt, the Elegance coral is highly aggressive to intruding fish and corals, especially those perceived as competitors.
In the constant battle for real estate in the aquarium, the Elegance coral will definitely sting nearby corals. So, endeavor to maintain a spacing of at least 6 inches (15 cm) around this aggressive coral, or else the neighboring corals will be severely harmed.
As a safety measure, keep the Elegance coral away from corals with stinging tentacles to curtail damages to its soft tissue. Even corals from its own family Euphylliidae, like the Euphyllia corals (Anchor, Hammer, and Frogspawn) are not exempted, they are quite capable of damaging the Elegance coral if placed in close proximity. Actually, Elegances can cause a lot of problems for these corals as well, so it will be better to keep them apart anyway.
Feeding Elegance Corals
The Elegance coral obtains a great deal of its required nutrition from photosynthesis, which is facilitated by a symbiotic relationship with a marine algae “zooxanthellae” living in its tissue.
Additionally, the coral is capable of filter-feeding. It will capture planktonic organisms, small prey, and food particles from the water column with its tentacles.
Furthermore, it will also benefit a lot from direct or supplemental feeding of small meaty foods. The coral will gladly accept:
- mysis shrimp,
- brine shrimp (and other similar sized food items),
- vitamin-enriched brine shrimp,
- reef roids (link to Amazon)
Tip: You can equally offer it small fish or scollops but this needs to finely chopped/minced for easy digestion and to prevent regurgitation, endeavor to do the same for shrimp and krill before passing it to the coral.
Tip #2: Frozen foods should be thawed and rinsed to make it easier for the corals to consume them. Also, rinse the chopped food several more times to remove as much phosphate from the food as possible.
Although some reef keepers have never fed Elegance corals in their tanks; it is still recommended to feed them 1 – 2 times a week.
Be sure to feed the Elegance coral adequately, this should be done several times a week to keep it healthy and strong. Proper feeding is one of the keys to success in the captive care of corals, so make sure your coral gets plenty to eat, in the right proportion and at the right time.
Tank Requirements and Water Parameters
The minimum tank size for housing Elegance corals is 15 gallons (about 60 Liters). Having a larger tank is even better as it encourages adequate spacing between the corals, as well as stability of water chemistry.
Water type, Temperature, Hardness, and pH:
Temperature: The ideal water temperature for keeping Elegance corals is between the range of 74 – 83 °C (23 – 28 °C).
pH: Maintain optimal pH values 8.1 – 8.4 for the coral to thrive in your reef aquarium. Bear in mind that constant fluctuations in pH can affect the coral’s health.
Hardness: Keep water hardness values between 8 – 12 dKH.
Make sure to provide moderate diffused lighting, with PAR values between 50 – 150. The corals need enough lighting to be able to perform photosynthesis with the aid of the symbiotic marine algae (zooxanthellae) that dwells in their tissue.
Important: At the same time, be very careful with intense and direct lighting. Elegance corals do not like that. So, if you have a strong light you might have to create a shade for the corals.
The required light output can be supplied by a variety of lighting sources such as LED lights and fluorescent lamps. As for metal halides, the light from this should be diffused to prevent damages to the fleshy polyps.
Interestingly, the Elegance coral tends to glow under actinic lighting, its body exhibits bright green fluorescence, the white striations on the oral disc become bolder, whereas the tips of the tentacles glow in their original colors.
Water flow is another problem that reef tank enthusiasts have not solved yet.
Generally, moderate water flow is well appreciated by Elegance corals. You need to maintain the right amount of flow i.e. “not too little and not too much” for your coral to thrive.
Also, the gentle flowing action of the coral’s long, beautiful tentacles in a tank with ample currents is too marvelous to behold, being regarded as “elegant” is no mistake!
However, we should not forget that Elegance coral’s natural habitat is turbid water.
Stronger flow benefits the corals by bringing more food to the coral’s tentacles. In addition, turbid water suggests that corals would get significantly less light (and it correlates with the fact that these corals don’t like bright light).
At the same time, many aquarists did not have success with such tank setups. They reported that exposure to water currents that are too strong/turbulent torn the polyps or prompted it to retract fully.
Normally elegances like the sandbed better because it is safer and replicates their natural environment.
Rock might scratch their delicate tissue. As a result, damaged tissue can cause bacterial infection.
Indonesian vs Australian Elegance corals
There are two places in the world where these corals are harvested:
Indonesian corals are known to have better and more color variations than Australians. Unfortunately, there is a huge difference in the survivability of Elegances collected from Australia and Indonesia.
There are serious issues with corals imported from Indonesia what is referred to as “Elegance coral syndrome” (read below). While the Australian version is reported to be harder and does not seem to suffer from this fate.
Note: Even though Indonesian Elegance corals are under restriction last few years, they are still sold on the market. Therefore, whenever it is possible, try to find out where they come from.
Care and Maintenance of Elegance corals
In specimens that are not suffering from the Elegance Coral Syndrome (ECS), the care level is rated “Moderate”, whereas infected corals stand no chance of surviving in the reef tank since this disease has no known cure. Therefore, the Elegance coral is not ideal for beginner reef hobbyists.
As mentioned earlier, the coral should be placed on the bottom of the tank. It prefers to sit on the sand bed than on live rocks that can cause injuries to its delicate polyps.
In addition, before you remove an expanded colony from the tank water, make its polyps to retract temporarily by fanning them underwater. The reason for this being that their polyps can be easily damaged when fully expanded.
The Elegance coral needs moderate lighting, water flow, and regular feeding of shredded meaty foods to be able to thrive. This marine coral loves to eat, so ensure it gets enough food to ingest to prevent it from starving.
Be sure to carry out routine partial water changes of 20% a month, 10% biweekly, or 5% weekly to maintain good water quality, the 5% weekly water changes is sure to replenish the needed additives.
The following water conditions should be properly maintained to encourage good health and of your coral:
- Salinity: 1.023 – 1.025
- Phosphates: 0 – 0.05 ppm
- Ammonia: 0 ppm
- Nitrate: 5 – 10 ppm
- Calcium: 380 – 450ppm
- Magnesium: 1200 – 1350ppm
- Strontium: 8 – 10 ppm
Elegance corals prefer slightly dirtier water. They need a little bit of nitrates and phosphates. As long as you don’t see exposed skeleton you’re doing great.
Fragging and Reproduction of Elegance corals
In nature, Elegance corals can reproduce through sexual and asexual means.
- Sexual reproduction. This coral reproduces by releasing gametes (eggs and sperm), resulting in a fertilized egg that soon transforms into a free-swimming planula larva.
Metamorphosis continues and the planulae larva changes to a tiny polyp which begins to exude calcium carbonate to form an exoskeleton before finally turning into a coral.
Sexual reproduction of this manner is very common in the wild. Unfortunately, there has been no known history of such occurrences in captivity.
- Asexual reproduction. Alternatively, the Elegance coral is capable of reproducing asexually.
Mature corals will form daughter colonies which can be manually removed from the parent colony once their skeletons reach a decent size, this exercise should be done carefully with a sharp razor blade or scissors.
Healthy Elegance coral produces new buds every few months. So, just wait for buds to form, snip those buds, and there you have your new corals.
Another means of propagation is through the fragging of the Elegance coral.
The fragging process
Fragging of the colony is possible using an electric wet tile saw, but that might be too complicated and risky because the survival rate is pretty low.
Important: The Elegance coral tissue is deeply embedded in the skeleton. Therefore, using a hammer, chisel, cutters, and other less accurate tools will severely damage tissue and result in a poor survival rate.
- You should ensure your hands are clean or wear a pair of gloves. Do not touch the Elegance coral with your bare hands.
- You will need a decent-sized and healthy coral with several mouths. Mouths are the center of the coral. As the coral grows, the mouths split. So, it is important to cut in such a way as to leave at least one mouth in there.
- Using an electric bandsaw, divide the coral into several parts.
- After that, you need to do an Iodine dip.
Problems Associated with Elegance Coral
Regardless of how hardy a coral species may seem, it is still prone to a few infections or issues that strongly militate against its optimal health and longevity. That of the Elegance coral is the dreaded Elegance Coral Syndrome, brown jelly infection and coral bleaching, let’s take a look at these identified problems:
1. Elegance Coral Syndrome:
The Elegance coral syndrome (ECS) is a lethal infection known to occur solely in Catalaphyllia species, and a great number of specimens in the aquarium trade, especially those harvested from Indonesia suffer this disease condition.
Symptoms include swelling of the coral’s oral disc and the presence of unexpanded polyps. Other notable ones are white opaque mucus-like coating, the inability of tentacles to easily capture prey, and reduced feeding impulses.
The disease cause or cure is unknown, ECS can spread from an infected Catalaphyllia coral to another within a short period of time.
Make sure to quarantine new Catalaphyllia specimens for a month in order to ensure that the disease is not present, if after this period you do not notice any of the stated symptoms, then you can proceed to move the coral to your main display tank.
Note: In order to save the corals, some aquarists even attempted to frag them. Unfortunately, the fragging process is also pretty stressful for the corals and can kill them.
2. Brown Jelly:
This infection can be identified by the presence of a mass of brown jelly or goo, and this is caused by poor water quality or tissue damage.
Insert the infected coral in a separate container, brush off the brown jelly, apply broad-spectrum antibiotics on the affected areas and move to a quarantine tank until it fully recovers.
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3. Coral bleaching:
Yet another rampant health issue, this is caused by exposure to direct lighting, extreme temperatures, changes in salinity, pH, etc.
When this happens, the coral loses its color and turns pale or translucent since the symbiotic algae living in its tissue has been expelled. So, you have to find the cause and fix it.
4. Gall crabs
Although these crabs are known to be fairly harmless hitchhikers, not everybody can tolerate uninvited guests in their tanks.
These crabs are pretty hardy and can survive even dips during the acclimation process. So, be ready to remove them manually. You can squeeze them out of the hole by using a pin or anything similar.
5. Elegance abandoning base (Bailing out)
In some cases, Elegance corals leave the old skeleton. While the real reasons for this are unknown, the reef community assumes that too strong water current (high direct flow) and not enough nutrition are the main ones.
Generally, the section that comes loose will die. Although it can look healthy and stay intact for weeks, over time it usually breaks up and disintegrates.
In rare cases, those corals managed to survive while making a new skeleton.
Sometimes Elegance corals do not bail out completely but recede from the skeleton around the edges.
Do not panic. Once every few months they can do such things. Keep an eye on that upper rim around the skeleton. As long as the tissue is not receding, it should bounce back.
Elegance Corals and Tankmates
Elegance corals are aggressive not just to other corals but to animals as well.
It is not recommended to keep snails with them. Elegance corals are snail murdering machines. You will literally get a snail graveyard around them. Some people even believe that these corals release some sort of pheromones to attract snails.
Astrea snails, Nassarius snails, Mexican Turbo snails, Cerith snails, etc. are all on the menu.
In addition, Peppermint Shrimp, Skunk Cleaner Shrimp, Blood shrimp, Blue Leg Hermit Crab Halloween Hermit Crab, Sea hare were also caught when they get too close. It does not happen often but you have to understand the risk.
Moreover, there are reports that Elegance corals captured 6 inches (15 cm) bristleworms!
Another conflicting issue is the housing of Elegance coral with clownfish (Amphiprion percula). In the absence of anemones, the Elegance coral is often able to host clownfish without issues. However, on rare occasions, the clownfish might irritate the coral a lot prompting it to retract its polyps. So, you can never tell if the coral will tolerate this association, all you can do is to give it a try and the response will determine your next course of action.
Buying Elegance Coral
This large polyp stony coral is available in local pet stores, it may not be cheap but it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Factors like size, color, and place of the collection can affect the price at which a specimen is sold. In addition, you might want to ask the seller about the origin, since specimens from Australia are usually devoid of ECS, however, the same cannot be said of Indonesian specimens.
To be on a safe side, make sure to observe the polyps carefully before taking the coral home. This is to ensure that the coral didn’t sustain severe injuries during collection or shipping which can expose it to various infections.
Another thing is to avoid specimens with retracted polyps, slimy mucus, and pale coloration as these are typical signs of poor health.
Note: Do not buy anything in the store if you see Bubble algae, the Glass anemones (Aiptasia), Asterina starfish, or Vermetid snails. Do not risk it!
The Elegance coral has been subject to a lot of criticism over the years on online forums and publications because of its poor survival rate as a result of the notorious ECS condition.
There is absolutely no point in keeping Elegance corals suffering from ECS, so don’t gamble on it. Moreover, if you have established specimens of Catalaphyllia in your reef tank and add one with this contagious infection, then you have made a horrible mistake as the infection will spread to healthy specimens whether there is direct contact or not.
The only way to escape this problem is to quarantine new specimens for some time. Ideally, one month is adequate to monitor for the disease symptoms, if the coral is found healthy you can now transfer it to your main display tank.
Ultimately, stick to proper feeding schedules to prevent starvation, maintain stable water chemistry and provide other necessary conditions. Adherence to these practices will foster good health and longevity of your Elegance coral.
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